PCC rebukes Davies book claims over resolved complaints

The Press Complaints Commission chairman has hit back at accusations by journalist Nick Davies who claimed the independent body had not considered a large number of complaints made to it.

‘I think he got it really badly wrong,’said PPC chair Sir Christopher Meyer of the claims made in Davies book, Flat Earth News. ‘He was unable to read the statistics properly, or at least his researchers were.”

‘He didn’t realise that all adjudications are rulings but not all rulings are adjudications so he came out with some tiny piddling figure and compounded that with those that we don’t entertain.”

The PCC said Davies looked at the global figure and compared this with the small number of complaints formally adjudicated upon.

This, it said, failed to factor in the number of complaints which were outside the PCC’s remit, duplicate complaints and complaints that had been resolved without the need for formal adjudication, all of which are included in the top line figure.

Meyer was speaking at a briefing on the PCC’s annual report, which has been published today.

The independent body received a record 4,340 complaints and made 1,229 rulings in 2007, according to the report.

Three-quarters of the complaints were about accuracy. Nine per cent were about privacy and six per cent alleged intrusions into grief or shock.

The PCC issued 1,229 rulings in 2007, including 560 in which it found no breach of the Editors Code and 483 which were solved to the satisfaction of the complainant.

The figures represent a 31 per cent increase in complaints and a 20 per cent increase in rulings relative to 2006, but the report stressed that the increase in complaints was most likely due to greater visibility of the PCC and the ease of complaining by e-mail.

For the first time, complaints about online versions of articles outnumbered complaints submitting hard copies.

Meyer said there was no evidence the rise in complaints was due to a collapse in journalistic standards but that increased public awareness of the PCC had contributed to the rise.

In addition, the figure was inflated by multiple complaints about a small number of stories.

A Daily Mirror piece by Tony Parsons criticising Portuguese police in the Madeleine McCann investigation, titled ‘Oh, up yours, señor”, received 485 complaints, more than any other piece. However, none of these resulted in a finding that the Code had been breached.

Heat magazine’s stickers poking fun at the disability of Katie Price’s son Harvey drew 143 complaints.

The report confirms figures that the PCC chairman Sir Christopher Meyer provided to the House of Lords in January.

Newspapers’ growing multimedia activity online led to several new types of complaints to the PCC in 2007, Meyer noted in his report.

For the first time, the PCC dealt with complaints about taped conversations being broadcast and children being filmed in school.

The PCC made its first rulings about audiovisual material on a newspaper website in 2007 when it rejected a complaint against the Northwich Guardian, which had embedded a YouTube video of an arson attack on its website.

Adherence to the PCC code could be seen as a kitemark for quality for online news, Meyer suggested in his report.

However Meyer said there was more the industry need to do to raise public awareness of the avenues of redress the PCC offers.

At the briefing, Meyer also Meyer said that the departure of Daily Express editor Peter Hill from the PCC this month had been due to a number of factors including the Express newspapers row over payment with the Newspaper Publishers Association and the group’s libel payout to the parents of Madeleine McCann.

He added that Hill was due to leave the PCC because he had reached the end of his term there.

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